The four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher sends out the 4-5 morning favorites in each of Saturday’s stakes races at Gulfstream Park, races that could produce contenders for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby, now less than three months away.
The headliner is the 2012 champion juvenile Shanghai Bobby, who makes his three-year-old debut in the Grade 3 $400,000 Holy Bull. The race is the first of three key preps for Kentucky Derby hopefuls and will be followed by the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 23 and the Grade 1 Florida Derby on Mar. 30.
The Pletcher trainee puts his perfect record on the line as the 4-5 morning line favorite and faces nine foes in the 1 1/16 mile race on the main track, including three fellow stakes winners.
Bern Identity won the Jean Laffitte at Delta Downs, Sr. Quisqueyano won the Seacliff at Calder last summer and Itsmyluckyday was an impressive winner of the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day.
Pletcher also sends out the 4-5 morning line favorite in the Grade 2 Forward Gal, with Kauai Kate seeking her fifth win in six career starts.
She is undefeated in four sprints, her lone loss coming in a fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
The talented filly takes on a trio of stakes winners in Fusaichiswonderful, My Happy Face, and Spring Venture.
Can Pletcher’s imposing duo be beat? Here are my top three selections for each of Saturday’s stakes races at Gulfstream Park:
The $200,000 Forward Gal
Kauai Kate (4-5) has won four of her five career starts with her lone loss coming in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, which was her lone try going two turns. Her trainer Todd Pletcher has acknowledged that he will keep her going one turn. She bounced back from her loss with a sharp win in the Grade 3 Old Hat. She only had to beat four foes, but a couple of the fillies she beat were minor stakes winners.
The extra furlong should suit, and while our second and third choices are using this race as springboards to longer races later this spring, this gal has been pointed to this race. She owns solid early and mid pace numbers, and her last speed fig towers over the rest of the field in here.
Spring Venture (8-1) makes her first start on conventional dirt here after a pair of races on turf and one on poly before failing to fire in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She won the Grade 2 Natalma and Grade 3 Mazarine both going long and went into her last race as the "wise guy" pick, getting bet down to 7-2, and we were on her, too.
She has been working quickly at Palm Meadows for her three-year-old debut for the Mark Casse barn that is 19 percent winners with horses coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. It looks as if there is going to be an honest pace here; this gal may be rolling late, and the 8-1 morning line looks more than fair.
My Happy Face (4-1) is coming off a game win in the Grade 3 Tempted in her final start as a juvenile, dueling for the early lead and battling in right to the wire to win by a neck. Two back in her stakes debut she ran well in a tough head loss to the talented Dreaming of Julia, who finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in her next start.
The Rudy Rodriguez barn could have gone to the Breeders' Cup but elected to stick in New York. She is handling the Gulfstream Park main track in the mornings well, and the cut back to seven furlongs should suit her.
The $400,000 Holy Bull
Bern Identity (4-1) makes his first start since running a good second in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot. The colt was shuffled back on the far turn, was angled out six wide and finished with a rush to come up 1 3/4 lengths short of catching Goldencents, who came out of the race to win the Grade 3 Sham in his next outing on Jan. 5 at Santa Anita. The third place finisher Mylute exited the Delta Jackpot to beat Alw-1 optional claimers by 10 3/4 lengths at Fair Grounds in his next start, and Show Some Magic excited the race to win the Allison Futurity at Sunland Park in his next start on Dec. 23.
The colt won the Grade 2 Sanford in his first go against winners last summer at the Spa and then was no match for Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 2 Hopeful at seven furlongs. Going two turns he may be able to turn the tables on the champ here and will likely offer better value for the top spot.
Frac Daddy (8-1) makes his first start since getting beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. The time of that race was on the slow side, but the colt that beat him is no slouch. Uncaptured has won six of his seven career starts including five stakes, two of them graded.
The Ken McPeek trainee earned a solid figure two back in his maiden score and appears to be working sharply in the mornings over the Gulfstream Park main track. Decent value if this guy goes off near his 8-1 morning line.
Shanghai Bobby (4-5) is undefeated in five career starts and capped off his championship year by digging in to win the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a head over He's had Enough, who came back to run fifth in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity in his next outing.
The Todd Pletcher trainee appeared to be aided by a racing strip at the Breeders' Cup that was playing to inside speed. He did handle Goldencents last year winning the Grade 1 Champagne and our top pick in the Hopeful, but just has the look of an underlay in this spot.
Morning line and trainer statistics provided by The Daily Racing Form.
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